Juliet V. Strauss · 2001
For Edward W. Bok, editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal, at the turn of the century, the secret to his periodical’s success was simple: find writing talent and publish the result.
In describing his technique to a New York Sun reporter, Bok mentioned a column he had first noticed in an Indianapolis newspaper. “It struck me as well done. I watched it for some time. Then I took pains to find out who wrote it,” said Bok.
He discovered that the writer was “a woman in a tiny out-of- the-way town in Indiana.” After a favorable report from one of his staff, who traveled to the Hoosier state to visit the woman, Bok “made her an offer to do some work for us,” which led to the column “The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman.” The woman columnist Bok described was no stranger to the residents of her home town, Rockville, Indiana.
From November 1905 until her death in 1918, Juliet V. Strauss, better known in her home state as “The Country Contributor” of Indianapolis News fame, produced a steady stream of common-sense observations for the Journals female readers. Strauss’s direct, down-to-earth writing style, which often celebrated the joys of being a homemaker, was a hit with Hoosier readers who regarded her “as friend and counselor,” the News noted upon the author’s death.
Born January 7, 1863 in Rockville, Juliet Virginia Humphrey’s was the second of William and Susan (King) Humphrey’s four daughters. Following Williams death in 1867, Juliet and her sisters were brought up by their mother, a strong- willed woman who played a key role in the future writer’s education. A self-described “dilatory pupil” while attending Rockville’s public schools, Strauss said she had something more valuable than any schoolhouse learning–“the close companionship of a cultured mother who had a vocation for teaching and who devoted her whole life to the care and education of her children.” Although no scholar, she did excel in one area of writing—and it was not long until her abilities were recognized.
She even supplied the News with a number of “emergency” articles in case she ever was unable, for whatever reason, to produce her weekly column. Just a week before her death, which occurred on May 22, 1918, Strauss’s secretary called the newspaper to ask if one of the “emergency” columns, written a few months earlier, could be returned to her boss for revision.
Strauss managed to make the necessary changes and returned it to the News before her death. The column, her last, which was titled “In Defense of Exaggeration,” appeared in the newspaper on May 25, 1918. Following her death, the News praised her work as offering “a very sound and helpful philosophy. One can read in them a love of simplicity and genuineness, an earnest and honest faith, a hatred of sham and pretense, and a belief in the home and family as the great educators.”
A more permanent memorial to Strauss came four years after her death with the unveiling of a memorial to the author at Turkey Run State Park. Erected by the Woman’s Press Club of Indiana, the sculpture, called “Subjugation” was crafted by Myra R. Richards. According to the Press Club, the sculpture captured the spirit of Strauss’s writing–the subjugation of the material to the spiritual. But perhaps the best way to remember Strauss is through her own words.
Reflecting on her life after her children had grown up and moved away from home, she was proud that she had “never followed anybody’s lead. I lived my own life. If I wished to ride a horse, or play a game of cards, or go wading in the creek with the children, I always did it. I never strained my eyesight or racked my nerves to arrive at small perfections. I avoided rivalries and emulations. In short, I lived.”